Strawberry in trouble again
By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
Former Yankees slugger Darryl Strawberry spent his 40th birthday Tuesday in a cell at the Marion County Jail, charged with violating his probation after he was kicked out of a drug treatment program.
Authorities said Strawberry was expelled from the Phoenix House, a treatment center near Ocala, because he broke a house rule. Local and state law enforcement officials wouldn't say what rule he violated.
Joseph Papy, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, would list only the rules Strawberry didn't break. "He did not test positive for drugs, and he did not leave the facility," said Papy, adding he could not give additional details because arrest paperwork had not been filed in court.
As Strawberry was led handcuffed into the Marion County Jail, he said he was confused about the events that led to his arrest.
"I thought I was pretty successful in the program," Strawberry told CNNSI.com. "I'm pretty much surprised. I feel pretty good. I feel like I've accomplished a lot. I've worked hard on my recovery."
Tuesday's arrest was the latest in a long series of problems for Strawberry, who was charged with violating his probation several times. That's what led him to the Phoenix House treatment program in the first place.
In May 2001, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Florence Foster ordered Strawberry to serve an 18-month suspended sentence there for violating his probation. He had been arrested two months earlier after a four-day cocaine binge.
The incident capped several years of legal and personal problems for the three-time World Series winner, who has undergone operations for colon and stomach cancer. Recent tests have showed no signs of the disease.
Darrell Dirks, chief prosecutor of the Hillsborough County State Attorney's drug division, said he wasn't surprised by Strawberry's arrest. "He was given numerous opportunities," he said. "The number of violations he had indicated that he needed more structure."
At the Phoenix House, Strawberry was supposed to receive help with his drug and alcohol addiction, along with cancer treatment.
Strawberry's friends said he was doing well at the facility, where strict rules govern each hour of the day.
Strawberry apparently was not the only Phoenix House resident to break rules.
Ten residents were arrested and accused of violating their probation this week -- four on Monday, six on Tuesday. Angela Jewell, a spokeswoman for the Marion County Sheriff's Office, said all 10 offenders, including Strawberry, were there under court order.
If they failed to complete the program or were expelled from it, they were arrested and accused of violating the terms of their probation. Strawberry is being held without bail.
Strawberry's lawyer, Joe Ficarrotta, and his wife, Charisse, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Because of her husband's struggle with drugs, Charisse Strawberry founded a local chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said last month that he hoped to hire Strawberry once he cleared his legal hurdles.
"The Yankees have long been supportive of Darryl Strawberry, and I'm sure we all regret that things have not worked out the way we would have hoped," Steinbrenner said in a statement Tuesday. "However, at this point, it is up to Darryl. He must stand up and be personally accountable."
Others said they were shocked that Strawberry was back in jail.
"I spoke to Darryl a week ago, and he seemed peaceful," said friend Kim Koslow of Lake Worth. "I was shocked when I heard today, and sad."
On April 8, Koslow said, Strawberry will mark an important date in his life, much more important than his 40th birthday: the first anniversary of his sobriety.
"He's come a long way, and as long as Darryl didn't pick up a drug or drink, he's still on the path. The goal is for Darryl to achieve sobriety," she said. "On April 8, he will have a year sober, and that's a miracle for Darryl Strawberry."
-- The Associated Press, Times staff writer Mike Readling and Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.
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